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As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM

Today we hear from three women who suffered various kinds of abuse as children—sexual, physical, emotional and verbal. Were they forever damaged? Or were they able to thrive in spite of their childhood?

PATSY: What do you think of parents who gave the boys in the family cars when they turned 16, but not the girls? When my older sister turned 16 and asked where her car was, she was told she had to find a boyfriend to get one. Well, she did. She got pregnant and married the guy. She got lucky. They’re still married after 35 years.

I was being molested by one of my brothers. My mother knew about it, but didn’t do anything to stop him. We lived out in the country, on a farm. I didn’t want to stay on the farm, but how was I supposed to find a job without a car? I never asked, but I knew I had four years of high school to find a guy.

So, I got pregnant by a loser. I didn’t marry him. Instead, I married another man who proceeded to abuse me in every way possible. I finally divorced him, 18 years and five kids later.

I wish my mother had given us girls a little better chance. I like to think if she had, I wouldn’t have made such poor choices in my life.

MARY: My parents didn’t really like one another. Life was really boring and formal and cold. I was also given to understand that children were a real bother and ruined your life. Not surprisingly, I’ve never wanted to be married, nor have I ever wanted children.

LEILA: My mother was German, My father was Chinese. They conducted themselves with the cultural elitism of Nazism and the Tong Dynasty. They were both narcissists and they thought racial epithets were funny. When they died, I was flooded with memories so frightening, they resulted in chronic panic attacks and agoraphobia so severe I didn’t leave the house for eight years.

My official diagnosis was Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by multiple kinds of abuse including physical and sexual, profound neglect, emotional attacks, and terrorization.

All this bad behavior taught me not to role-model horridness. I may be a Pollyanna, but it’s my choice. My life’s work has been fighting the good fight for those who can’t stand up for themselves. I’ve supported class action suits and social justice for women and children with disabilities. I volunteer with non-profit organizations that support my ideals.

In the end, it has never been about what was done to me, but what I wanted to make of my own life in spite of it all.

I’ve been married twice, once to an alcoholic and once to a man with bipolar disorder. I have one child who’s now a young adult. I am now about to marry for the third time.

Regardless of prior disappointments, I’m a wise, mature woman and entered into this relationship as such. For my fiancé, it is a breath of fresh air to be in a relationship of complete honesty and based on realistic expectations, not romantic delusions.

What effect has your childhood had on your relationships and your life choices? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants, to

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